Saturday's Sunny King NCC criterium event in downtown Anniston, Alabama proved a hard event with an near-perfect result as Carlos sprinted to 2nd place. The four corner event was well-attended and a nice crowd arrived by the finale of the Women's race and the beginning of the Men's race. Slightly uphill (2-3%) with a strong tailwind, the long run from corner 4 up to the finish line was bumpy and fast. After topping out our elevation at corner 1, it was slight downhill run into a strong headwind from corner two to three. Both of the bottom corners three and four were very fast, parking arcs just like back in the 'long-board' days. The team's race plan was pretty simple, make sure we have someone in the break, even if it means losing them for the finale; then work for Carlos in the end. With only three full six man squads, Kenda 5 Hour Energy, Team Mountain Khakis and Team Exergy, one may think the field was soft without a full United Healthcare train; however some very strong time trialists from United Healthcare and Competitive Cyclist showed up, with teams of 3 riders respectively. So don't be fooled, the pace was mighty hard. Team Exergy stabled the same crew as Charlotte: Alzate 1, Alzate 2, Ginger 1, Ginger 2, the Russian Concussion and yours truly.
Early breakaway, Corner 3
Only minutes into the race, with 3 Team Exergy riders patrolling the top ten after numerous early attacks, Kenda's Phil Gaimon launched from 12th wheel out of corner 4. On his wheel, I followed him up the road and we quickly gained a large gap. Initially I was happy to work with Phil and establish a gap with the hopes of other riders bridging across and potentially forming a solid move. Out of the last seven editions of this event, 2011 was the only year that a large +10 rider break didn't lap the field so a break has a good chance at this event. But in the laps that followed it became apparent that no one was going to bridge across and as the rotation settled out, I was pulling on the downhill headwind section from corner 2-3. After ten minutes, our gap holding at twenty seconds, I was unsure of what to do. Try to stay with Phil, who is a very good time trialist and having an amazingly strong spring season, to finish it off in the sprint if we do lap the field or go back to the field and leave Phil out to fry. No matter what I was thinking, I got popped after ten minutes after the prime bell rang, Phil attacked and I couldn't follow him. If I went back to the field now rather than dig in for a chase, at least his chances of completing a lap (100 second lap time) or staying away would be minimal with 70 minutes still remaining in the race. So I returned to the peloton and worked at the front before settling in for the end.
Cycling News.com: Carlos 2nd, Howe 1st, Wamsley 3rd
Unfortunately I started to experience cramping shortly thereafter and although I keep eating and drinking, I ran out of food and cramped badly with 10 laps remaining. I haven't cramped like that in over 3 years, and never to the point where I had to stop racing. I was tough to watch the last nine laps of the race from the sidelines but Serge, Tino, Conor and Kevin rode very strongly in the finale. Due to the nature of the course it was difficult to avoid "THE SWARM" so Carlos parked in behind Kenda's riders while Kevin and Conor kept the pace very high in the final 3 laps, each doing almost an entire lap on the front themselves. This left Kenda's Murphy (2009 US Criterium Champion) on the front with 1 lap to go, his teammate Issac Howe following with Carlos in tow. Apparently corner 3 on the last lap was wicked crazy and Wamsley lead through the final 2 corners but in the sprint up to the line Howe powered through for the win with Carlos following closely for 2nd place. Not the win, but we'll take it. It also will move Carlos up in the overall NCC standings to which he sat in 5th place prior to the event.
The following day, despite a quick turnaround for an 8am start, the team raced a hilly 70 mile road race in Piedmont, Alabama (about 30 minutes from Anniston). The first hour was very aggressive with numerous breakaways of 6-10 riders that all failed after initially looking very promising. However after passing 2 of the days 5 significant climbs at the 25 mile mark, two breaks of four riders gained a gap on the field with Tino Alzate riding on to finish the day 7th. As the peloton rolled into the finish, it was absolute pandemonium. The start line was traditionally bannered and very blatant however unknown to us...that wasn't the finish line! Ten kilometers away, a guy held a clipboard 400 metres following a turn off the main road. Well that was chaotic!
So all in all, 1 podium on Saturday's NCC event and a good day of training during Sunday's local road race. Not bad but we really want to get that win. CyclingNews Report + Gallery.